Former governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni, in this interview by AKINWALE ABOLUWADE, speaks on the governorship election held in the state last Saturday, his relationships with the governor-elect, Dr Kayode Fayemi and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, among other issues.
What is your assessment of the last Saturday governorship election in Ekiti State?
The election was very successful, free, fair and transparent and there were not many cases of trading violence. It went very well.
But the election was dogged with criticisms with observers and some parties that participated in the exercise, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), questioning its credibility and they also cited vote buying, among others.
If people complained about vote buying, let›s just look at the issue from the perspective of what would people say when they lose. I am yet to see an election where the loser will adjudge the whole process as free, fair and credible.
When you talk of vote buying, it has to be defined. The party that sent money to people›s accounts before election and also went round giving money to people the last two nights before election, what were they trying to do? They were arguing that it was goodwill buying. How do you differentiate between goodwill buying and vote buying? If such a party, after losing, is now accusing other parties of vote buying and attempt to discredit the election, I think it is ridiculous. That allegation is ridiculous. Ask them what were they doing with N4000 that they were giving to people in their houses the last two nights? What was it that they were doing with the alert by crediting people›s accounts? I think you should ask them to find other excuses.
Some are of the opinion that, after victory, there should be celebration but the case is different after this election. Does this not suggest that the people are not happy with the result?
Celebration can be in any form. It may not be very wild; it may be in the way of merry making, dancing and so on. I don’t think they could say that there has not been celebration. We were here yesterday (Monday) celebrating and the same thing happened in the houses of many leaders. So, to say there is no celebration is not right.
But PDP said the reaction of the people of Ekiti to the result suggests foul play?
Let me tell you, between Fayose [Governor Ayodele] and Fayemi [Dr Kayode], majority of the Ekiti people would prefer a Fayemi simply because of the personal style of Governor Fayose. A lot of people will say ‘we are now breathing an air of relief’. So, if anybody is pretending that that is not the situation, the claim is also not correct. A lot of Ekiti people don’t want to be associated with the kind of theatrics that they were subjected to in the entire period of the Fayose administration. The fact that it is not Fayose, but that his personality far over-shadowed that of the PDP contestant points to the fact that the theatrics would still continue if Kolapo Olusola was elected.
You have not been seen with the governor-elect since he was declared the winner, is there any problem?
How? We have been talking. Election happened on Saturday and today is Tuesday, here I am talking to you about the election. Yesterday (Monday), I was here celebrating the victory with my people. I talked on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe the only day I probably did not talk to the press was yesterday (Monday).
Attention is on you because at a point you went to court to challenge the emergence of Kayode Fayemi as the APC standard-bearer?
You saw that we came together to fight the election. That should indicate that we have come together. Everything is alright as far as now. Between two people you can define how it is and I believe that everybody is okay right now and I hope that everybody will continue to be okay. That is the best I can hope. We have smoothened all the edges.
At some point during the campaign, your people were agitating against the Fayemi candidature. What was the secret behind the support he had at the poll?
We talked to our people and it was our collective decision that we were not going to leave the party but we would work for it. It was not difficult for us to remind ourselves of what we would do. We had all agreed that this is our party and that we were going to work for it. Otherwise, how many houses can I visit in talking to our people?
PDP is crying foul and vows to challenge the result at the tribunal while some independent observers also scored the election low. Are you comfortable with the situation?
Election is not new to any party. So, if they have any fact, let them take it to the tribunal and we would go there. The much that we all saw was transparent enough to discourage anybody from going to tribunal but it is their fundamental right. So they are free to go. We shall meet them there. The foreign observers that spoke with me said that the election was very well conducted, free, fair and transparent.
It was said that Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Senator Bola Tinubu supported your ambition to fly the flag of the party at the poll. What went wrong?
I must tell you and you can find out what support we were given, other than the normal goodwill of greeting when we saw. If anybody supported anybody during the primary, one of the critical ingredients would be money. Find out if one naira of Osun State came to me or in the direction of any of us that contested the APC primary. Rumours are very unfair.
How is your relationship with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the moment?
I have always said it and I have never denied that I am one of Obasanjo’s children and it would always be. Do you have any other rumour on that too?
It was believed that your closeness with Chief Obasanjo affected your prospect as the APC flag-bearer?
I don’t care about what may affect me or not. What I believe is what I believe and I profess it at all times. I have the attribute of doing what agrees with my conscience and refusing what does not agree with my conscience always.
What should we expect from you hereafter?
You should expect me to continue to give my loyalty to the party as well as my service to the country and that is it.
What should the people of Ekiti be expecting from the new government that is coming on board?
They should expect self-esteem. I can guarantee that they will begin to walk on the streets without fear of an assault to their psyche. You won’t see funny theatrics or hear of stomach infrastructure. It is going to be serious and purposeful business. APC and John Kayode Fayemi will show class.
We see very old people coming out to vote despite the odds. Was it the incentive that spurred them to come out?
You should not be surprised because the highest average life expectancy in Nigeria is in Ekiti and so you have more old people in Ekiti than in any other parts of the country. The old people are parts of the society and many of them still have their faculty and energy in quantum. Many of them are still able to exercise their voting rights without a problem. There are cases where some of them require assistance, but it is very unfortunate that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could not provide the assistance that they needed and their votes were voided because they could not put the ink correctly for lack of assistance. But, at least, they came and voted. It was joy and satisfaction to them. In future, INEC should categorise those who need assistance, maybe, on account of sight or age, etc.
What do you think should be given priority attention in Ekiti as the new administration takes over?
One of the most important ones has been mentioned by the governor-elect and that is clearing of salary backlog. That inflates the economy. Once the new government clears the backlog of salary as promised within six months, money in circulation will encourage commercial activities and that, I believe, is a very good step.
Some people are worried that the coming administration would introduce cattle ranching but the people are obviously kicking against the idea.
I believe people are not getting all the information that they need on this. Where do you see cattle rearers in the United Kingdom? Think of it; don›t they consume beef and other protein? What is wrong if we are saying let us follow the way other people do it? The future of livestock farming is in ranching. Maybe there are still misunderstanding on who owns the ranches and how would they be operated, etc. Maybe people are afraid that once you designate somewhere for the ranch, what would be the right of the original owners of the land and the compensation that they would get. We still need to fine-tune the details. But let›s face it; there is no alternative to ranching.
Are you in support of state police?
I am not yet in support of state police because, like the issue of ranching, we have to make it very clear. For instance, what would state police do and what would they not do? What would be the limit to guide against conflict? When I was growing up, there were native authority police being maintained by the regions. So, it is not as if state police was completely new to us. But when you want to bring up an idea, you have to specify so that when people know how it would operate, they can ask the right questions or raise the right points.
So I am not saying yes to state police until I know precisely how it would operate.
What is your view on restructuring?
Our party has already indicated interest in restructuring, but in key areas. There was a committee that did a nice job but we are yet to look at their work. I am sure that our party would move further on it.
Are you comfortable with the situation in APC at the national level now as the home is divided?
The only advice I will give is to the Reformed APC (R-APC). They should sit down and talk with the leadership of the party to see what can be done to allay some of the fears because they can’t get it all. It is better they stay because where they are going, I am a politician and I know, it may not be profitable for them in the long run.
What is your message to the people of Ekiti?
I congratulate the people of Ekiti. When we were campaiging there were agitations and we were afraid that it can turn into violence. Our people don’t like to see violence at all. We have had the election and there was no violence; houses were not burnt and there was no single casualty. I assure them that better days are coming so they should cooperate with the governor-elect. As the economy is reflated with payment of backlog of salary arrears by the incoming government, as promised, our people should think of the best way to invest it. They can engage in poultry at the back of their houses or invest in other little ventures. This would help them a lot.